Tampa, Florida was first visited by Spanish explorers in 1521 and discovered to be a Native American fishing village by the name of Tanpa. Thanks to inaccurate, ancient cartographers, the name was changed to Tampa and not long after a booming city was born.
Today, Tampa’s population is well over 350,000 and has become a financial and commercial hub in addition to one of the world’s most popular vacation destinations. Located in the Sunshine State, Tampa delivers on its official motto in abundance and offers an outdoor lifestyle that is second to none.
A native of Tampa for over forty-five years, I am uniquely qualified to offer a “must see and do” list for those visiting the west coast of the Florida peninsula for some fun in the sun. I encourage you to experience each of the following exciting, vacation experiences.
Contingent on your preference, you can choose between saltwater, freshwater and even deep-sea fishing. Tampa’s waters boast over 200 species of fish including trout, snook and of course, tarpon. The most popular fishing spot is off of the old Sunshine Skyway Bridge. You can use your own lures or opt to purchase live shrimp as bait to reel in snapper and redfish. More secluded spots can be found along the Courtney Campbell Causeway where top-water bait can bring in a prize winning bass. The kids will enjoy hours of entertainment watching the bobbers dance on the waves as catfish are lured to the bait and provide just enough resistance to challenge, yet reward, youngsters for their big catch of the day. There is no shortage of bait and tackle shops, and fishing equipment is readily available to rent. For those adventurous visitors, book a guide party and cast for tarpon and dolphin out in deeper waters.
There’s nothing like a day on the water, relaxing and trolling the fish-filled waters around Tampa.
4: Busch Gardens
So much fun and exploration awaits you at Tampa’s African themed park, Busch Gardens. The Dark Continent boasts nine rollercoasters including SheiKra, which climbs 200 feet into the air and mercilessly falls downward at a pure ninety degree drop. Two of the five thrill rides splash you through rapids of cool water to excite and refresh you under the warm Florida sun.
More than 12,000 animals representing 250 species that are indigenous to Africa can be safely observed throughout the park. Popular favorites include cheetahs, elephants, giraffes, chimpanzees, lions, tigers and gorillas.
When it’s time to catch your breath from the speed of the speeding coasters, relax and take in a live show. Cool off with Iceploration, Tampa’s largest ice show which features world-class skaters and life-size puppets. And, just try to keep the kids away from the smash hit show; A is for Africa, Starring Elmo! It’s an adventure of imagination, music and dancing.
There is so much to see and do in this uniquely themed amusement park that you may not see everything in one day, but you will certainly have fun in your attempt to do so.
3: ChannelSide Tampa
ChannelSide Tampa is a retail entertainment complex located in Downtown Tampa. Many begin and sometimes end the day at any of the numerous shopping and recreation options at the Bay Plaza. For some culture, check out Paintings of the World and then discuss art with a stogie at Cigars by Antonio.
Next, dine on American, Asian, Seafood, Sushi or just grab a pizza. Numerous restaurants featuring cuisine from all around the world are available for lunch and dinner. Be sure to choose outdoor seating to fully appreciate the view of the adjacent water.
Don’t forget to spend some time inside during the late afternoon at the Florida Aquarium. Revered as one of the top aquariums in the world, the Florida Aquarium is home to over 10,000 aquatic plant and animal life and also provides an outdoor water play-land for the kids.
There’s plenty of fun to be had after dark, too. Bring everyone to Splitsville, an upscale recreation center including bowling and pool tables for some friendly competition, food and drink.
If you’re up for some traditional Irish fare and a beer, visit Maloney’s Local Irish Pub. Be sure to visit them on the weekend and enjoy local live music.
Relax, take advantage of the valet services and enjoy your fun-filled day at ChannelSide Tampa.
2: The Festivals and Outdoor Events at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park
Eight acres comprise the Curtis Hixon Park as it stretches along the Hillsborough River in Downtown Tampa. Named for the 45th mayor of Tampa, the park hosts multiple events almost daily. A review of their online calendar will provide an array of scheduled events in which to participate.
An average week offers at least one themed food festival. Dozens of local restaurants invite you out to sample their food while you socialize and enjoy the beautiful warm weather.
Early mornings on Saturdays almost guarantee a charity run that raises money for many important causes. Show up to run or to simply cheer on the participants to show your support. Afterward, picnic with breakfast along the water and plan the remainder of your day under the rising sun.
Children’s events are abundant as well. Many focus on healthy activities and provide stimulating games and build social skills among the young ones.
There’s a plethora of annual events to choose from that range from Tampa Bay’s Dragon Boat Race to Shakespeare in the Park and even an outdoor movie screening, proving that there is something for everyone at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.
1: Ybor City
If you’re looking for rich history coupled with the sights and sounds of daytime activities and high energy nightlife, then historic Ybor City is the place for you.
Ybor City (pronounced “ee-bor”) was founded in the 1880’s by cigar manufacturers and is now home to residences and small businesses.
Park the car and let the streetcar safely transport you to the shops, multi-cultural restaurants and bars that occupy the extraordinary red brick buildings of another century.
Daytime shopping and dining options are plentiful on Ybor City’s main thoroughfare, 7th Avenue. Pick up the pace with outdoor recreation activities or keep it low-key and casually peruse the historic statues in Centennial Park. There’s even a resort and spa to remove your stress and help you relax before you head out for drinks.
Ybor City has indisputably become the destination of choice for Tampa’s sizzling nightlife. Whether you prefer dance clubs, piano bars or the casual setting of drinks with friends while listening to an acoustic set in an intimate setting, Ybor City offers it all.
Rich with the cultures of its original population from Cuba, Italy and Spain, Ybor City boasts a unique charm that can only found in Tampa.
Welcome to Tampa and please enjoy your stay!
Gare Allen is an independent author with books in several genres including paranormal, spiritual and humor and entertainment. His books can be found on amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, kobo.com and smashwords.com. Click the link below for his bestselling First Impressions: True Tales From The Road.